31 March 2021

Recalling My Trip to Argentina: Adventures in Ushuaia 2019

 


Back in January, I said I would revisit and share some more of my experiences in Argentina with you guys. I didn't talk about this part of my trip much, but I had 3 main hardships to contend with while I was there. However, I want you to understand that the bulk of my experiences were positive and my overall impression about Ushuaia is that I must do this again!

I spent two months in Argentina, October and November of 2019, flying there from Peru. Only 3 days were spent in Buenos Aires, after which I flew down to Ushuaia at the southern most tip of Argentina, in the region most commonly referred to as Patagonia. 

Though I had initially tried to avoid it, I arrived just before a late season snowstorm blanketed the area. I stayed in a bed and breakfast owned by my new friend, Javier. His place is located on the outskirts of town in the woods at the foot of the mountain. Beautiful place! It was a unique experience to boots deep in snow one day and then to have spring pop out as if it was spring-loaded the next week. One week, it's all white and the next week was luscious green. 


Problem 1- Currency Exchange Rate and ATM fees

As soon as I got to Ushuaia, I became rudely aware of one major thing. I'll put it this way. I went to an ATM in Buenos Aires to withdraw $260 in Argentine Pesos. The exchange rate and fee was so outrageous, I was certain I had just did the math wrong in my head. I accepted the fact that it might be expensive, BUT, I had to get the money. Peru was charging me $7 at the ATM for each transaction. Surely, this could not be as bad as that. 

I was wrong. Sooo WRONG! To get $260 out of the ATM, it cost me $50! I realized this the next day when I checked my bank account. Crazy!! I knew I had a problem on my hands, but then again... this is Argentina. I'll just use my card.


Problem 2 - Bank Account Hack

Upon arriving in Ushuaia, I saw 2 charges on my account for about $800. Damn. Okay. I called the bank and let them know. Instead of shutting down just the one account, they shut them all down. They apologized afterwards and got me fixed back up again. The problem came when they tried to send me new cards. It took THREE weeks. WHY? Mainly due to some misunderstandings in customs. The shipping fees should have been covered, but I never got any notices that my envelop packages with my cards were being held for the sake of $1. When I never arrived, the envelops got returned to the sender. At the end of October, my situation was finally resolved and I got my cards. 

Problem 3 - Severe Knee Injury

The Vinciguerra Glacier is a beautiful hike. I had never been on a glacier before. A few days earlier, I had taken a boat tour that dropped us off at a Harberton Ranch about 40 miles to the east. We toured the property, explored a trail, and visited the Acatushun Marine Museum showcasing several whale skeletons and that of other marine life in the area.

I've had two surgeries on my left knee from a military injury and I've been told I will eventually need a replacement. I was told to take it easy. Maybe the YOLO in me kicked in and I couldn't help myself. My knee held up fine, although much of this was easy walking, no heavy packs, and gentle slopes. This was not the case for Vinciguerra. We're talking only 700 meters of elevation, but it's STEEP! I hiked this as the temps were rising. The snow melt made the way up pretty darn muddy and quite taxing. I was a champ on the flat ground. Once we started the ascent, I was a lame billy goat ready to be put to pasture. 


Nonetheless, I was determined to make it... and that cost me. I was so weak on the way back down, there was one point near the top I had to descend on steep rocky scree. I asked God for his assistance, let everyone else go ahead of me, made my peace with my life and did my best. Oh, I forgot to mention there was a sheer cliff to my immediate left. One slip and it'd be over. All that concentration for each step to make deliberate controlled motions was also mentally taxing. My knee screamed with each step, but I had to eventually give in and just do it. 

Thank God it gave out on me when we were on the flat land near the vans and not at the top near the glacier. It just gave out without warning and without any pain. It just quit. At this point, I'm pretty sure I am done with my Around the World adventure. I had already booked a flight home for Thanksgiving. I was pretty sure I'd be staying put for the next few years to come. However, after just staying off of it, I regained some strength. I was home for the holidays and then came to Vietnam early February. I spent one month doing absolutely nothing. No tours. No walks around town. Nothing. And then Covid happened and I got even more time to chill and rest my knee. 

On a brighter note, I got to explore Tierra del Fuego National Park. The trails were beautiful! I'm pretty sure it's impossible to have air cleaner than what I experienced in this part of the world. All over the place, on anything that isn't moving, you'll see the growth of lichen. This lichen can only grow in the purest air environments. 


I spoke to a local university photography class! These guys were prepared! They had already seen my website and I was there to talk for 3 hours about my photography and give a them a foreigner's perspective on cameras, technique, and photographic art. I was unprepared. I thought I was going there for a totally different purpose. When I entered and saw the room full of students, I apologized for interrupting before I realized all those students were there for me. My next surprise was that half my time would be answering questions about my macro vulva art. They were not malicious or mean, and no one maligned me for my art. They asked questions! They wanted to know "why", what influence did I feel it had on women, and even tougher... how it reconciled with my faith (because they read my bio). I spent 90 minutes talking about vaginas to photo art students. THAT was a first. 

Javier taught me so much about Ushuaia. I saw a lot of white people that I thought were European tourists. Nope. They spoke Spanish! 3000 Italians immigrated to the other side of the mountains into Ushuaia on two boats and settled that area late 1940's. But while that is part of the history, 60% of all Argentinians nationwide also have Italian ancestry. I was privileged to have dinner with a film crew that was doing a documentary on the last living inhabitants that arrived there on the ships. 


Two other things I learned about is first, how bad the North American beaver population has exploded there and wrecking havoc over the entire region. Beavers are not native to this area and they have no natural predators to keep their population in check. They were brought in in the mid 1940's hoping to profit from fur trapping. That didn't happen. These bad boys are devastating Tiera del Fuego. Not only do they fell trees to eat the leaves and build dams, but they also kill of trees and vegetation by flooding huge areas with their dams. 

I also got a chance to try Mate, "...a is a traditional South American caffeine-rich infused drink. It is made by soaking dried leaves of the holly species Ilex paraguariensis in hot water and is served with a metal straw in a container typically made from a calabash gourd." - wikipedia. I liked that it was something I could drink that did make me want to put sugar in it. I didn't feel the need to. I'm a country boy from Texas. Our tea is cold, iced, and sweeter than raw honey. 

I hope to return to Ushuaia and also see more of Argentina. 







27 February 2021

FIVE Things You Probably Didn't Know About Hanoi

This post should probably be titled, "Five Things *I* Didn't Know About Hanoi". I have been here exactly one year as of this month. In this time, I have come to have a deep appreciation for this country, it's culture, and it's people. I have been exposed to so many different traditions and ideas, but I decided to do a post about 5 particular things I found to be quite astonishing about this city in Vietnam.

So here are FIVE things I found out after arriving:

1. Colombia isn't the only Coffee Mecca. Yep, Vietnam, too!

Okay, this one is more about Vietnam as a country than Hanoi, but it was still a huge shocker to me to learn this. Brazil is actually, the biggest exporter of coffee, but most everyone is familiar with Colombian coffee. No. 2 behind Brazil is, you guessed it... VIETNAM! Check out this article on it... => History of Vietnamese Coffee. I have NOT tried Egg Coffee just yet, and I still drink hella Americano. That's primarily because I still prefer larger quantities of coffee than just a swallow in a shot glass.

A little fancy maybe... photo by Fiammetta Mancini

2. Long Bien Bridge was built by the same company that made the Eiffel Tower.

It is a common misconception that Gustave Eiffel designed the bridge, but this is not true. The same company... yes. DaydĂ© & PillĂ© of Paris designed and built it, but Eiffel was not involved. Long Bien bridge opened in 1902 at almost 2300 meters long after about 3 years of construction. It spans the Red River and was bombed 14 different times during the war. It is no longer used for automobile traffic today. Only trains, bikes, and pedestrians cross this bridge now. 


3. John McCain has a memorial next to the lake he fell into after being shot down.

This one was sort of huge for me. I had just visit the War Museum a day or two before visiting the McCain Memorial. As an Army Veteran, I grew up trained by Vietnam war vets. When I enlisted, I was issued the same gear they used in Vietnam. I saw the PRC-77 radio I used in that museum, along with the same M113 armored personnel carriers I drove. My jungle boots were in a display case there. It was eerie. 

I visited there with my British friend Richard and his Vietnamese girlfriend, Trang. After leaving the museum, he told me about the John McCain Memorial site. I passed by it at least once a week and never knew it was there. It was nearby and I visited it the next day. I wasn't sure how to think of it. The late Senator and former POW returned to Vietnam several times in his effort to strengthen Vietnam/US relations. In 2009 he visited the memorial. To me, the statue depicts a defeated, kneeling figure. I saw it as more celebratory that he was caught than honoring the improved relations, but I could be wrong in that. 


4. The Lotus Flower is not just for decoration!

The aquatic pink lotus flower is the national flower of Vietnam, but it is more than something pretty to gaze upon. I had no idea, but it is also an edible plant. The flower, the stem, the seeds, and the roots have all been part of a cuisine or recipe ingredient. A lady on a plane gave me a seed pod and I ate the seeds incorrectly at first. I didn't peel off the green casing around the seed. I had downed about 5 of them before she corrected me. But after getting down to the actual white nut underneath, it was quite good. I haven't had lotus flower any other way beyond that, however. 


5. The Coronavirus has been checked better than most any other country in the world!

Make no mistake. Vietnam has been on top of this Covid situation since DAY 1. From the very first infected citizen, they took measures to protect it's densely packed 100 million population. Aggressive quarantine and contact tracing has kept case and death numbers down better than almost anywhere else in the world. A new wave recently brought us to just over 2400 cases. Not 24 Thousand... 24 HUNDRED. There have been a total of 35 deaths that all occurred during the second wave back in July/August 2020. The preventative measures have been exemplary. The country remains on a new entry visa lockdown, but we are free to travel within the country. International flights have been allowed in under the most strict circumstances... none of which is for tourism. 

In Late March 2020, I came up as a possible exposure contact (F2) and had to quarantine. Fortunately, I had great accommodations, food, and a hotel staff that treated me respectfully.

Quarantine breakfast

Quarantine room at Halais Hotel in Hanoi


23 January 2021

Three Years in the Making and New Priorities

 

Vincinguerra Glacier hike, Ushuaia, Argentina November 2019

You can never ever... like EVER really know how things are going to conclusively work out. Try as you might, the world around you could give two cents about you and your "plans". Eighteen months is what I had imagined this trip taking me. All I wanted to do was tour Central and South America. But the question popped into my head... why stop there, at the end of Argentina? I had no good answer, but more than a hundred reasons to keep going. But you've probably heard this story. So instead of looking back, this time... let's look ahead!

In my last blog post, I asked the question, "What Are You Going to Do Now?", given the nature of all the changes that... essentially, the world... has been subjected to. It's a valid question! Some of you already know. You've adapted already or your current situation is built/designed already to handle these hectic times. If your business or job was predicated on working from home, count your blessings. If your business is 100% travel related, you'd better do something. 

Vincinguerra Glacier hike, Ushuaia, Argentina November 2019

As we move forward, we hear terms like "the new normal", suggesting that life as we know it has died and will forever be relegated to talk in the taverns of how we USED to do things. Sort of how we maybe discuss today of life before the internet, emails, and iPhones. Personally, I do think things will return to pre-2020, just as life did after the last severe global pandemic in 1918. It may take all of 2021 or even into next year before we see Covid-19 as a thing of the past. We'll learn from it. New regulations and oversight will emerge on how we travel. Those are the things we'll have to get used to. Just like 9/11, we got used to taking our shoes and belts off for airport security. We expect to do that now, but we still travel.

But we have to make it to that point of "normality" again. (Side note: I hate that word.) And that brings me back to that last post question. What are you going to do now? Looking ahead, I can say that I am grateful to be where I am. It wasn't by design, I can assure you. I don't take credit for riding out this pandemic in Vietnam, one of the safest places to be in the world. I'm here and it helps being in a place where living expenditures are a quarter of that in the US. I know what you're saying. My mission is to backpack around the world! I get that. Reread the opening paragraph. CHANGE! Priority number one for me is to make my opportunities here. I'm looking into endeavors that will allow me to stay a couple years here. Yuuup... YEARS. Plural. 

I can't see "normalcy" in 2021. And I don't like the idea of basing my life on waiting for it. So I will make my opportunities, seek my happiness, and do what I think is right for me based out of where I am, right here in Hanoi, Vietnam. Hanoi has a sort of hold on me. When I thought about leaving, something seemed to always snatch me back. I'm not talking about fear of the unknown. No, I've returned for practical reasons. The people, the places, the city itself. I'm gradually understanding it. Ergo, I may as well get comfortable, stable, and start finding my opportunities here. 

Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse, built in 1920

I was all set to begin launching Wide World Terrell, a new content platform that would concentrate more on travel and ACCENTED with photography. It's still in development, but I'm holding on to it right now. Wide World is suspended until further notice and it's just going to be Wide Hanoi or Wide Vietnam, at most. Maybe I will introduce you to a black man's musings in the most promising locales in Southeast Asia. The important part for me right now, is that I'm committed to being here, as opposed to moving anywhere else. 

Next on agenda is getting my body right. I did not blog between November 20, 2019 and January 20, 2020. I did not cover any of my time in Argentina. Apologies. I spent the majority of October and November in Ushuaia, Argentina. I had a beautiful experience there and got some great photos. I'm going to talk about it more in the next or a future blog post. However, one particular event almost changed the course of all my travel plans. Towards the end of my trip, I chose to hike the Vinciguerra Glacier, right there on the outskirts, north of Ushuaia. I took a chance. Got some great shots, THOROUGHLY enjoyed the experience! BUT... man I ripped up my knee on the way down.

I am not really sure how much I've talked about my military injuries on this blog. Usually, I don't want to bring up those kind of personal hardships, but I think I will in the future. Maybe they can be helpful to someone. But I went home to the US for the holidays, not knowing if I would leave again anytime soon, have to get surgery, or what. I had moved from the VA hospital in Nevada to the one in Texas and getting set up in a new spot was not anything that was going to happen quick. 

Snow storm in Ushuaia, a few days after arrival. No Black and White conversion here. 

Instead, I found that I was able to walk around casually and decided that I would take a chance to travel. My strategy was to just be careful and see how I could heal on my own. Maybe come back in two years to repair it. Yeah... then Covid came. I was good for a while, but dagnabit... things changed about two months ago, where I began having problems again. So I have to make some lifestyle changes. I sort of need this knee! So I'm going to do some conditioning on my own, first. And then as I get stabilized in Vietnam, I'm going to seek care outside the VA and get medical advice here. 

So that's the plan. Get comfortable in Vietnam. Generate new opportunities. Get healthy! I'll talk about Argentina maybe next time, but meanwhile, enjoy the pics. 


11 January 2021

What Are You Going to Do Now?

My Excellent Panda, Copyright 2013 Terrell Neasley

 “Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.” 
– Nelson Mandela

With respect to photography... Nudes, Travel, and Change seem to be ongoing themes in my blog posts. Nudes and travel are what this blog are all about. However, the element of change works it's way in there like mortar between bricks. Change is what makes the Nude and Travel bricks in photography either stronger or weaker. Right now, I don't get to shoot nudes that much. The change in the travel industry has lessened my ability to travel. But it may be something different for you if you shoot wildlife or sports, for instance. Regardless of the genre, change will help you grow in your chosen field or it will make you quit it.

Change is not all bad. We dislike it because it robs us of options and choices. It takes away the comfortable and familiar and replaces it with "different". It can be inconvenient or it can be insurmountable and thus forces us to adjust or choose to do something else. Regardless, we are left with something unfamiliar to what we are accustomed to and no longer have the ease of routine and familiarity that we used to.

Twenty Twenty-One is upon us and brings with it Winds of Change more than any other year since any of us have been alive. Americans will soon have a new resident of the White House and if the recent course of events tell us anything, challenges indeed lay ahead. There is a vaccine for Covid-19 now, but travel still remains an interrupted and unpredictable affair. Therefore, the question I am asking is, what are you going to do now?

My Excellent Panda, Copyright 2013 Terrell Neasley

I'm not just asking rhetorically. I'm interested in knowing YOUR plans. Maybe you can impart some wisdom to me. As for me? Umm... well, I wanna continue to remain in Vietnam and work on some personal development. Taking lots of pics goes without saying. I still need to find my epic shot here. But yeah, hopefully I can get some stability. I'd like to remain for another two years and really search this place out in more depth both photographically and understanding the culture. If I get residency, I'll take some classes to learn Vietnamese. 

How do you carry on with your photographic career? Will you find something else to do for a while? Has this pandemic affected your ability to shoot, (whether you earn a living at it or not)? I know I have lots to figure out. Photo sales for me have been non-existent for a year almost. I read a recent blog post of another travel blogger whose entire income is derived from booking his guided travel tours. There are none for him right now. So what happens if the travel industry doesn't pick up this year? I wonder. He's not the only one in this predicament. How does the industry shift to something more survivable? Or hold out until it is better? 

My Excellent Panda, Copyright 2013 Terrell Neasley

It's my hope that none of us put down the camera. I pray we keep shooting. Make money at it or not, I don't think we can afford to forget the pure joy of photography. Maybe we are not selling or printing much. Maybe we aren't getting the gigs. But I think there are still things to do. I got a cousin who's on a rampage right now in Texas as she's BUILDING and becoming stronger in her photo game. That tells me there are still opportunities. But don't go flooding Texas. Be worth your salt and find those opportunities where you are. Money or no. 

Now is definitely a good time to advance your skills. Take online courses. Improve your lighting ability. If there is ONE area of photography that I KNOW people consistently neglect, it is LIGHTING! Don't give me that natural light shooter BS. I've been around long enough to know most people fear flash or think it's too complicated and expensive. EVEN if that were the case, I've still seen people misuse natural lighting. Sometimes they don't take advantage of using it at the right time or they don't know how to block or bounce light with flags or reflectors. Natural light shooters should know a little something about light direction, intensity, and color. Is the light hard or soft? How can you use shadows? Are the highlights too strong? See, it's more than just cameras and lenses and shooting while the sun is up.

There's lots to learn for everyone. I still feel so dumb about a lot of things. I hope 2021 brings a new hope for all of us. 

My Excellent Panda, Copyright 2013 Terrell Neasley


20 December 2020

On the Passion for Travel and the Changing World

 

Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, ©2018 Terrell Neasley

My mother recently sent me something regarding a pilgrimage letter by a woman named Egeria. It's about her insatiable desire to make a religious trek to Israel and document her experience for people she left at home. The author used her venture as the premise of his article which focused on people's need... no, passion to go out and see the world, to know unknown places, and journey beyond familiar horizons. 

Of course, my mother thought of me when she came across this in some of her Bible studies. Most people associate travel with a vacation. For Egeria, this is a way of life and a means to an end. Travel, in and of itself, is not the main goal. Her desire was not the journey... at least not as I interpret it. The goal was Israel. The means was the pilgrimage. Ergo, travel is the means to accomplish her objective.

Art Model, Jenny Copyright 2019 Terrell Neasley

Sometimes it is solely about the destination. I've often said, the only thing that sucks about travel is the actual travel. In so many cases this is true. Unless you have posh means to do so, that will be the reality of the majority who don't. The experiences WHILE you travel are the moments that make the reality of travel worthwhile. The culmination of the destination and the experiences enroute will dictate whether you chose to endure the travel again. 

This time last year, I had returned to the US after two months in Argentina and a few weeks in Peru. I can tell you that flying through four countries and having to check in AND out of immigration and customs at each country sucked! Waiting in the long cattle lines to check in for your flight or get your visa stamped blows! The constant aggravation of wondering if you'll make your next flight and knowing there is a real and valid possibility you won't can be daunting. 

Art Model, @Athena Demos ©2019 Terrell Neasley

Or, how about taking a 14-hour shuttle that is filled beyond the seating capacity. Yes, this is the case. I've watched a woman trying to maintain some dignity while sitting in the lap of a man she had never met before. Six hours in, you would have thought they were a married couple as she slept in his arms.

No, it's not always like that. I've had some pleasant experiences as well, and its usually because I had good company that made it all bearable. Although rare, there have been some circumstances where my means of travel was notably and memorably pleasant for one reason or another. I do not count on those situations being a regular occurrence.

I like to call this one, "The Schwarzenegger"
Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, ©2018 Terrell Neasley

Nonetheless, it is the passion for travel that makes us endure any of the hardships. Otherwise, I would have come home a long time ago instead of nearing 3 years on the road. Like Egeria, I try to document my experiences and write about the people I meet, cultures I learn about, and the myriad of unique places I visit and explore. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but let me be frank with you. A thousand words will never let you understand the uncertainty of sitting on cargo on the back of a commercial fishing boat in the middle of an unexpected storm at sea because its the only thing going out to the island you need to get to. An album of photos will not help you track the line of choices that led you to say yes to a group of Nicaraguan bikers when they ask you to go on an adventure with them 10 minutes after you meet them. And nothing the world has to offer will help you understand the feeling of abject loneliness that makes you question your decision to stay in a foreign country during a global pandemic. 

You must travel on your own and have your own experiences. Yours will be unique from mine. I have almost died on occasion... occasionS would be more accurate. But this is no more different than the same things that happens around you every day already. People  have traffic accidents, get robbed, and for one reason or another, people die every day. The world is changing. People are working and being educated remotely. The covers are being pulled back on a different way of life. New opportunities are afforded to more people to move beyond the traditional, the ordinary, and societal norms. How will you adjust, in order to, not just compete, but thrive? Will you continue to make buggy whips and then complain about losing your job?

Art Model, Jenny Copyright 2019 Terrell Neasley

I made a photobook once, called "Where I Have Been". I made it exclusively for my mother, because I know she will not ever get to see the top of a mountain. Therefore, I wanted her to see from the eyes of her own blood the world from a high above overlooking the magnitude of an immense valley. She does not see well. I will not get her to climb a mountain with me. However, now she can have a perspective of the world from eyes that she gave birth to. 

My point is that I know everybody can't do this. But there are many of you who have great eyes AND knees! You have your youthfulness, vigor, health, or whatever. Anthony Bourdain suggested to sleep on the floor if you have to, but find a way to travel! I'm not exceptional, but I know every one can't be like me. I made the choice to dump everything and be gone in pretty much a single day around the beginning of November of 2017. By January 7th, I was flying. That's drastic for a lot of people. I get that. That's just who I am. 

Art Model, @Athena Demos ©2019 Terrell Neasley

And I'm not even suggesting you travel right now! Or even outside the US, for that matter. What I am saying is that with the changing world, you can begin preparations NOW! You can make changes and learn the habits that will allow for a different lifestyle. If you do have a passion for travel, I can't think of a better time in your life than right now to begin. If you want my advice, don't worry about the money. Worry about getting rid of DEBT!! If you did want to travel right this very second, then yeah... it's possible. Many countries are opening up again, even for US citizens. It's a pain... but then again, I just told you that's the nature of travel. 

The world is changing. What changes are you willing to make?

16 November 2020

When an Art Model Dies: See Ya, Jessica...

 


“Remember that people are only guests in your story – the same way you are only a guest in theirs – so make the chapters worth reading.” 

― Lauren Klarfeld

I wasn't sure how or even if I wanted to write this post. But as one model friend of mine oft says, "Challenge Accepted." Over the last few years, specifically since 2017, I've had to deal with loss. I'm tired of it. I thank God that I'm not used to it. Death was never close to me until I was almost 30. People live long in my family. So you can imagine my shock when I lost my younger brother just two years ago. I still reel from that. Everything takes me back to his memory today. I have to turn away when watching something or reading a report about somebody losing a sibling. 

And there are friends that die. Some of these people are like family. They are not blood. And sometimes you don't even realize the magnitude of the loss right away. When my friend Jerry passed away 3 years ago, I went through a myriad of emotions from disbelief, anger, and grief. That incident, was one of the compelling factors that made me decide to take a road trip. The breakup with my girlfriend was another catalyst. Watching her drive away broke a little bit of something in me with the reality settling in that we were done as a couple. 

I've felt significant loss from people I have never known. On the evening of October 1st, 2017, a man decided to open fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas, where I lived. He killed 60 people and wounded more than four or five hundred... I forget. But I don't forget crying practically all friggin' day on Oct 2nd when I woke up that morning to the news. I cried for people I had never known or met. Jerry's death, the decision to breakup, and this shooting all happened the same month. Yep. It was time for me to take a break. I never intended to be gone this long. My initial goal was to finish a trip my girlfriend and I started, touring Central America... I was going to surprise her to go into South America, too. Instead, I'd endeavor to do it alone.


I expected to be gone a year. I just wanted to see what that felt like. I had run across other travelers who had been gone for a year. But a year turned into 18 months. Then it became a 3-year plan to continue around the world. Then somebody told me it was impossible to go around the world in 3 years. I said, you're right. Better make it 5 years. Two years after that, I said my 5-year plan technically begins here in Vietnam. Now I've been here for 9 months amid a global pandemic and feel like the clock has stopped. I should just say, I'll come back when I come back.

“The sorrow we feel when we lose a loved one is the price we pay to have had them in our lives.” 

― Rob Liano

And then there is the loss of a model. This one is new to me. Everything is different and it's a relationship that the majority of people will never get to appreciate, much less experience. I photograph nude women for my art. I don't just click and shoot glamour. I don't do this like some sort of impersonal assembly line of models. This is my art. Successful shoots for me require a certain synergy and almost like an exchange of pieces of souls. I give a little bit and I am given a little bit. It's a collaboration. 

Because they are naked, I know these women quite intimately and a different sort of relationship is defined. It's not necessarily a passionate relationship, but we both pour out our passion and intimacy into the art. I can tell you that I have known certain things about my models that their boyfriend or husbands may not have ever guessed because I have to pay attention and I try to listen. I am not always successful in this. I am a man. I am prone to fail in this regard, but it's a skill I try to hone. 

Sometimes there is an insecurity not revealed to anyone else but an art photographer. Secrets get exposed when all layers down to the skin are abandoned. There is a trust bond that is formed like the hardening of concrete. It is mixed and then poured out. With a little time, it hardens and becomes resilient and ever enduring. From that point on, we're written in stone. 


I haven't seen Jessica in years. She moved away with her daughter six or seven years ago. She was a wild and crazy soul... the type to drive topless in a convertible. She was unpredictable. I never knew what I was going to get from her, but that's how you learn to love her. You expect, and thereby appreciate the unexpected like a box of chocolates. Such a stunning woman. She walked into the camera store where I worked once wearing hardly anything and you'd have thought somebody had stopped time for all the patrons in the store. Thirty seconds before she walked in, the place was packed and the staff was overwhelmed. EVERYthing calmed down when her foot crossed that threshold. There was peace in the valley and nobody minded waiting for service at all. People were suddenly polite to one another, offering to let someone else in front of them in line to check-out. 

She had that affect on people. A captivating smile and legs like a staircase. Whatever you were busy with became less important than the desire to know her story. She wasn't perfect. She could be a pain, too. But like I said... you expect the unexpected, so the pain never lasted or cut too deep. It was always superficial. It took a little bit to learn to say "no" to her. I could not get away with the same things she could. And I don't play where safety is concerned. I've had to JUST SAY NO to many models when I felt doing something compromised safety. I had to be on my toes with Jessica. 

However, even with the span of time of not seeing her, learning of her loss still hit hard. It was... I mean... damn. I hadn't seen her in years, but we still talked. Oddly enough we had just talked two or 3 times right before she reportedly died. It's like one second a person is right there and then they vanish before your eyes. My brother was right there and suddenly he wasn't. It catches you unawares. The art nude model-photographer relationship is just different. Nothing about it seems remotely believable. It doesn't subscribe to societal norms. Jessica was that big bright star burning hottest. But these stars are always gone too soon. I am grateful to her. Thank you, Jessica. And to her sister, I am grateful to you for the news. God keep you, bless you, and may He always favor that little girl.


23 October 2020

Nude vs. Naked

Art Model, Alisia Copyright 2020 Terrell Neasley 

"Nakedness reveals itself. Nudity is placed on display. The nude is condemned to never being naked. Nudity is a form of dress."
~ John Berger

I got a chance to talk about my nude art work a few months ago in a pizza shop. The conversation with a couple and their female friend got fairly in-depth as we talked about my art. This picture usually develops often in my travels when I mention I do artistic nudes. And in this case, like several others, it's the women that usually drive the discourse. First, they want to see the pics. I take them to my website (PhotoAnthems.com) or show them some of my latest work on my phone. After that, the questions, discussion, or debate commences. 

The absolute most common question I get is... 'Why do they have to be naked?" This comes from a more conservative circle who don't understand why I do this. I get that. My art is not for everybody and I'm not trying to persuade anybody into my court on this. And therefore the answer I give to this question is, THEY DON'T. They do not HAVE to be naked. They are nude because I CHOOSE to photograph them this way.

Other times there is instant appreciation and the discussion turns to inquiry. How do I find models? What do I look for in a nude model? Who are my inspirations... both model and other photographers? How did I get started? The girlfriend wanted to know what kind of nudes I enjoy (other than my own). I initially thought they were trying to get me to talk about porn. But that wasn't the case as they explained to me that my style was different from what they were familiar with, however, surely every artist must also appreciate different styles and and hate others.

The friend of the couple pointed out that she liked how I used "real" women who look like somebody you might see shopping in a store or standing next to you in the elevator. She felt it was cool that somebody could find beauty in people like herself and not just "Hollywood" women, as she called them. The conversation also brought to mind the debates, in which I sometimes engage, on the distinction between a photograph of a nude woman vs a pic of a naked chick. I'll scroll past the latter all day. 

Art Model, Alisia Copyright 2020 Terrell Neasley

So what is the difference between art nude photography and a photo of a naked person? That's a simple, yet complex question. On the face of it, nakedness simply implies a condition of being without clothes or something that covers your modesty. Yes, there are other functions of clothing, but let's stick to the point. Any image depicting nakedness can be claimed to be art or artistic by the creator or subsequently by anyone who views it. I used my cell phone to take photos of a girlfriend while she showered or sometimes when she exercised outside on the back patio. Is it art? I can be, if I say it is. And subsequently so, it is if I display it in an artistic environment with other similar depictions and call it, "Life of the Domestic Nude". Therefore, weight is given to the creator, the viewer, the context, and the environment in which the photo is displayed as to determinant factors to answer the question of artistic value and merit. 

Conversely, if I take the same shot with a camera that allows me to slow down the shutter speed, I can blur the cascading water and maybe her hands as they pass over her face and through her hair. I could shoot with a wide-angle lens and capture more of the surrounding bathroom for the environmental portrait aspect and shoot upward from a low angle. I might narrow the aperture down to reduce the light which illuminates her backside more than her front as she faces the shower head... and intentionally underexpose it. This creates a vignette on the backside of the composition whereas the front side is already in shadow. Maybe I'll shoot at a higher ISO to introduce grain and edit the shot in Black and White. 

Art Model, Alisia Copyright 2020 Terrell Neasley

At this point, I've employed fundamental principles of photography, introducing motion, perspective, balance, light and shadow variance, depth of field, grain, and use of monochromatic techniques. I'd bet if you saw the shot, you could see geometric shapes in the composition. If I never used the photo in an art gallery or if I never even called it art, it would still likely be widely accepted as an artistic composition on it's own merit. Why? Because I used artistic tools to consciously create something. You don't have to be called an artist to create art. Art is an expression. A person who creates something that is an outward manifestation of their expression, views, or emotion has created art. If you do it repeatedly, your an artist whether you get paid for it or not. If you get paid, then you're a professional artist. 

I don't often put a name to my style of nudes, but what the girls were used to seeing was glamour nudes. What they saw in my art didn't reflect much of that. I'm glad for it. I hardly ever need a make-up artist or a hair stylist. I like my nudes as raw as they come. I shoot the nude in whole or in macro parts, but I shoot all of her. Nudity restrictions hamper my creative abilities. I usually find my models by asking or they get referred to me. It is not often that I get someone who sees my work first and then contacts me, although it does happen. Over they years, especially in the US, word of mouth is what garnered the majority of my model finds. 

"There are few nudities so objectionable as the naked truth." 
~ Agnes Repplier

Art Model, Alisia Copyright 2020 Terrell Neasley

Shape, hair, eyes, are usually the first things that get my attention, in that order. However attitude is the prevailing factor. I say it all the time. I shoot as much as what's inside the model as I do the outside. If the attitude is not a fit, then I can't do it. That's not to say she or he has a poor attitude, just that for whatever reason, their hearts are just not in it. 

Edward Weston, Harry Callahan, Diane Arbus, Jerry Ulesmann, Sally Mann, Spencer Tunick... these were my initial inspirations. My photography professor, Michael Johnson first encouraged me to try nude photography. Dave Rudin was huge for me when I was still fresh and had finally switched to digital. He shoots film however and was already an established art nude photographer in New York. He contacted me offering encouragement and insight. He attended one of my art nude workshops and I got to see him often on his trips to Las Vegas. I get inspired by practically every model I work with. There's always something that is unique which they bring to the table. 

I love working with the muses who I shoot often and they let me play, experiment, and have the patience to stick with me when I do crappy work. There have been some I only worked with once and it was just as impactful. I can say I've shot hundreds of models. It seems like at damn near every point in my life, since I began shooting nudes, there has been someone there to help me. Since I first began, I once went a whole year without shooting a single nude. In 15 years, that's only happened once and I pray it never happens again. Top 3 models I've shot the most... 
Art Model, Alisia Copyright 2020 Terrell Neasley

I don't need for other art nude work to be like mine for me to enjoy them, but I don't particularly like implied nudes, nor nudes that trend conservative. It's so subjective. My favorite nude/photograph of all time is Dave Rudin's art piece of Carlotta Champagne. In fact... I think I will do a blog post on that one photo at some point. But it's an easily conservative piece that is nonetheless the best photo I've seen. I'm not particularly a fan of sexualized nudes. And there is a difference between that and erotica. Your idea of what sexualized is may be different from mine. Mine even has degrees to it. Maybe I'll talk on that at some point, too. Can sex be art? Sure. But more on that later. Everybody has their range on the art nude spectrum. I can only explain mine... ambiguously, so.

I've been happy to work with 4 women here in Vietnam. Art Model, Alisia was someone who was referred to me and we put together our collaboration soon after. It was a long photo shoot! I was ecstatic that she had that kind of patience for a first shoot. We discussed the possible concepts and then just got to work. I let her move, pose, and tried to provide as little direction as possible. I wanted to take what was given and see what resulted. That has been my approach most times, but if the model has difficulty and needs help on how to move, I can step in and direct. I placed Alisia where I needed and just let her go for it. My job was to capture her performance with the right light, perspective, and angles. We did that and I think we created some fine art. I am very appreciative of her. I thank her for helping me celebrate the female form with this art.

Art Model, Alisia Copyright 2020 Terrell Neasley



05 October 2020

1000 Days of Adventure and Stories

Art Model, Jenny Copyright 2019 Terrell Neasley

 "Still around the corner, there may wait a new road or a secret gate."

~ John Ronald Reuel  Tolkien

This past month, I hit a benchmark that I wasn't even aware of until I was downloading some files from my online backup. It told me that my desktop computer (in storage in Las Vegas) had been out sync from continuous backup for 1004 days, which is the time I unplugged it, packed it, and locked it up on December 21st, 2017. It has been that long since I've had a home where I have all my stuff and lay my head down every night. Since then, it's been hotels, hostels, and apartment rentals... the longest stay in one place being close to 6 months in Xela, Guatemala

I know some people thought I'd be back after only a few months. Two and a half years later, I'm still rollin' and no where near finished. Delayed! Halted! Holed up! But not finished. A global pandemic and the current reduced status of the US passport has me unable to move around as freely as I might desire. The Global Passport and Power Index has the US ranked tied for 23rd, but there are 53 countries ahead of us. Bosnia/Herzegovina, Serbia, Croatia, and even Ukraine are ahead of us. Japan and New Zealand tie for the strongest passport in the world for 2020.  

Art Model, Jenny Copyright 2019 Terrell Neasley

Less countries are admitting US citizens and even here in Vietnam, people still ask me when I got here before they let their guard down with me. I have to make sure they know I was here PRE-Pandemic! This should be obvious, because the borders have been closed and no new tourist visas have been granted since March. But given the recent smuggling incident where some Chinese immigrants snuck in some illegal Chinese citizens and then coincidentally we got a second wave... I guess I can understand.

So how did all this start for me? Well, I've already told you about people who have been influential in my life regarding international travel... The Army showed me new lands and new people. An ex-girlfriend showed me it's not as expensive as I thought to go someplace. My friend Heather convinced me to go with her to Central America and that started me to traveling the way I do now. But there have also been a number of other factors while I was growing up that also heavily influenced my wanderlust. 

Art Model, Jenny Copyright 2019 Terrell Neasley

I think I've always been an explorer by nature. Where I grew up in Texas, there are woods behind my house. I used to venture into those woods with my little brother, Greg just to see where they led and what was within them. We didn't have Google Maps back then. I was always interested in what was around the corner, over the bend, and beyond the horizon. 

I also read books. Who doesn't remember "Where the Wild Things Are"? It's a story about adventure! And I read countless adventure books like this. None was more influential to me than J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit" and Bilbo's adventure with Gandalf and the Dwarfs. I actually saw the 1977 animated version in the 4th grade during an assembly. All of my 4th grade class saw it. I was mesmerized the whole time. 

Art Model, Jenny Copyright 2019 Terrell Neasley

It was only later on, while I was in high school that I accidentally came across The Lord of the Rings series. Discovering, after all this time, that there was a continuation! Crazy! 

“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” - J.R.R. Tolkien "The Lord of the Rings, Fellowship of the Ring"

Art Model, Jenny Copyright 2019 Terrell Neasley

I think that one quote stuck with me best. Along with, "Not all those who wander are lost..." which is part of a poem in The Fellowship of the Ring. Then a year AFTER high school, I learn that there is yet another continuation... or rather a preceding book to the series called, "The Silmarillion". I listened to that one on audio CD's when I found it at a bookstore. I had to have it! I actually first looked at the box and thought, "They are just copying LOTRs!

But all throughout my childhood and adult life, I've had stories of adventure surround me or I was on them myself in the Army. How could I keep still? I had to seek out the horizon. Initially, that was moving out west into the unknown deserts surrounding Las Vegas. That sufficed for a while. But adventure called again and I headed off to Central America 3 or 4 times. Sometimes solo... sometimes with company

Art Model, Jenny Copyright 2019 Terrell Neasley

But there was one nagging feeling that gnawed at a spot in the back of my brain since the first time I met someone on my first trip to Guatemala. They had been traveling for a 13 months by the time I met them. I thought I was big-timing it being gone 6 weeks. It pestered me! What is that like to be traveling for years at a time? That was back in 2012. It took me until 2019 to actually find out after crossing my first year of travel. Three more months and I'll be on year THREE! And I feel like I'm just getting started. 

Art Model, Jenny Copyright 2019 Terrell Neasley

Thanks again, Jenny for coming out to meet me in Peru, despite NEVER having met before! That was a FABULOUS THREE WEEKS! Good times, tough times... we made it through blistering heat on the beach and freezing cold nights on the lake. Those are the things that makes the story.


28 September 2020

Don't Be Afraid (REPOST FROM 2016)

Art Model, Covenant ©2015 Terrell Neasley
"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear." 
~ Nelson Mandela

Don't be afraid.

You know I can honestly leave this post at just those 3 words, but anybody who knows me, knows I am never that succinct. I like to use my words, so let me articulate my meaning here. Elocution would serve better, but since I have not as of yet published my work via podcasts, the written word will suffice. As a former Staff Sergeant in the Army, my voice can deliver the intended affect with inflection and tone that deliver my meaning more accurately, but I will try to get my point across, nonetheless. Maybe one day I'll do a speech on the matter. For now...the written word.

Art Model, Samantha ©2011 Terrell Neasley

We all fear. Its inevitable that something will arise that will cause fear at some point in our lives. However, as you may already know, its how we respond to the fear that makes the difference. As a kid, I used to get my ass kicked just about daily, until I decided to make some changes. Since I was already taking a beating, how would striking back and defending myself make matters worse? So I learned to hit back...hard. Interestingly enough, the beatings stopped. Correlation? You tell me.

Today, I live differently. I don't have to fight like that so much. There are other things in life that make me afraid, but those early years, along with some military refining has helped me control fears better, (but not eliminate them, however). Now, I almost have fun with it. Fear lets me take on life challenges that can be rewarding times ten more when you overcome them. I tend to run towards things I fear, which may not be wise at times, but I'm not altogether stupid either.

Art Model, Leslie  Copyright 2016 Terrell Neasley


Don't be afraid of the opinion of others. This is especially so, concerning those who should have little influence on your well-being, income, or health.

Don't be afraid of being the only one. It can be lonely to go it alone but you will find out more about yourself, your capabilities, and thereby boosting your confidence. Not everyone has your vision or wants to do what you want to do. That doesn't mean you have to flow with the status quo. Do you.

"Don't be afraid to go out on a limb. It's where all the fruit is." 
~Shirley MacLaine


Don't be afraid to lose things, people, or money. It's bound to happen and you'll have to accept that fact. Its supposed to be that way when you think about it. People will come and go, but that's not always a bad thing. Things are temporary and you'll always be getting more stuff.

Don't be afraid to try new things. This is how you learn and experience the world.

Art Model, Anne ©2015 Terrell Neasley

Don't be afraid to fail. I've heard is said, "Failure is not the opposite of Success. It is PART of it." You'll make mistakes. Get up and learn from it.

Don't be afraid of the unknown. You don't know everything. In fact, you know very little. Hence, most of the universe is unknown to you. Think about how much you didn't know 5 years ago. The things you know today were unknown to you then. You don't always need to play it safe. Be smart. Get outside the lines a little bit. You'll thank me.

Don't be afraid to start that adventure. JUST GO! Old people don't brag about how many overtime hours they clocked. Or how many consecutive years they were able to stay under budget at Corporation XYZ.  That shit doesn't make for good stories.

Art Model Chloe Ann Copyright 2017 Terrell Neasley


"An artist must be free to choose what he does, certainly, but he must also never be afraid to do what he might choose."
~ Langston Hughes

Don't be afraid to be hated. Not everyone will like you, especially when you start getting good and succeeding. That's just a fact. It means you're likely enjoying yourself. Don't sabotage your own happiness worrying about somebody hating on you. Katt Williams says the more haters you have the happier you likely are.

Don't be afraid of bad circumstances. It happens. It's going to happen again. How you respond to bad circumstances is what makes the bad circumstances permanent or not. And if they are not permanent...why worry?

Don't be afraid to trust yourself. In all actuality, you can't trust yourself, but you should. You're going to fail. You're going to let yourself down. However all that matters is the fact that you still control you. You 100% can't control anyone else. You CAN control you. So that makes you the most trustworthy person alive. Having some self control issues? Well, stop that shit.

Art Model, Melissa ©2009 Terrell Neasley

Don't be afraid to keep learning...from anybody. I have learned so much from people 80 years old as well as from an 18 year old. I can't say what I might learn from an 8 year old, but I'm sure its possible, somehow. You won't know it all. Ever. So keep soaking up information and tidbits of wisdom where you find it. Keep your mind open because you'll likely come across it in some of the most unlikely places. Age, social status, economic class, race... if you limit where you can accept learning because of these dividing lines, you limit the potential you can evolve to. Cut that shit out.

Now go handle your business.

Art Model, KristiC ©2016 Terrell Neasley